Hanging Your Work From the Rafters
How Oxford Pennant made the Buffalo Sabres’ new banner for Rick Jeanneret.
On April 1, the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres raised a banner to the rafters for play-by-play broadcaster Rick Jeanneret, who’s retiring at the end of this season after more than 50 years behind the mic. About two weeks prior to that, they ran a teaser tweet that showed photos of the banner being made.
Something about the photos in that tweet — especially the one at upper-right, showing a worker tending to the banner in a room with an exposed-brick wall — gave me a hunch: Was this banner being made by Oxford Pennant, the Buffalo-based company that in recent years has made small banners for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills?
I emailed Oxford co-founder Dave Horesh to ask if his company was making the Jeanneret banner for the Sabres. “Yes,” he said. “It’s the first rafter banner we’ve ever made.”
It occurred to me that I’d never written about the making of rafter banners, so I asked Horesh if I could interview him about the process of making this one. After checking with the Sabres, he agreed. Here’s a transcript, edited for length and clarity, of a Zoom call we had two days before the banner went up. (Full disclosure: Oxford made my Uni Watch pennants a few years ago.)
Uni Watch: Before we talk about the Sabres banner, give me some quick background on Oxford Pennant. When did you start it, why did you start it, and how’s it been going?
Dave Horesh: I started Oxford Pennant in 2013 with my business partner, Brett Mikoll. We were originally looking to manufacture a wool felt pennant for a project and found that there were very few folks in the United States that made felt pennants the way they were made in the first half of the 20th century. So we decided to make our own.
This was around the time that Instagram was starting to get a foothold as an independent app and company, and we kind of rode that wave all the way up. People were reaching out on Instagram and saying, “These are great, but can you make them with my town’s name?" Or their kid’s name or whatever. We had the infrastructure in place, so we decided to just say yes to everything anybody ever asked.
Now we’re in our ninth year in business. We have 53 employees. Everything is manufactured in Buffalo. We’ve turned it into a pretty neat sort of athletic specialty shop — we do chain-stitching, we do embroidery, we do pennant manufacturing, we do apparel. So in terms of what we produce, the company is a throwback. But it’s made to scale in a digital world, we have a great website, and we’re very active on social media. We don’t have professional league licenses, but we do have a partnership with the Bills, as you know. Overall, it’s a company that I wake up every day excited to work at.